Reviewing the 2009 Tower Hamlets Petition for a Mayoral Referendum – with a 40% Spoil Rate, was sufficient Due Diligence shown?

Posted on | Sunday, 25 March 2012 | No Comments

Petition organiser, Councillor Abjol Miah handed in the petition to Tower Hamlets Council on 23 October 2009 stating,  “… we have an unaccountable council leader in whom a very large amount of power is vested, including vitally the power to appoint to paid Cabinet posts and the disposal of almost a billion pounds of taxpayers money annually’. It’s ironic that his words almost exactly fit the current elected mayor that his petition established.

The council formally accepted the Petition on 16 November 2009 (Petition date).

In March 2010 a request was made under the Freedom of Information Act, for details relating to the petition. This is the letter:

Dear Tower Hamlets Borough Council,

With reference to the petition submitted to you for an elected Mayor.

Please be kind enough to tell me:

* How many signatures were on the petition
* What checks were made to verify these signatures
* How many names were discounted from the petition as invalid

Please also supply any documents (for example, but not limited to emails, letters, meetings notes, transcripts, minutes) relating to this petition: between officers, councillors or other council officials, and to or from officers, councillors or other council officials and members of the public or representatives of another body or company.

Yours faithfully,

The councils initial response was as follows:

How many signatures were on the petition?

17,189 entries checked:

Valid - 10,233 (59.53%)
Invalid - 6,956 (40.47%)
No Full Name - 2,094 (30.10%)
Not Registered - 3,408 (48.99%)
No Address - 788 (11.33%)
Non LBTH Addresses - 642 (9.23%)
Underage - 14 (0.20%)
No Signature - 10 (0.14%)

What checks were made to verify these signatures?

Four Officers were tasked with checking the signatures on the petition against the register of Electors.

How many names were discounted from the petition as invalid?

With 7,794 signatures required - the number of valid entries exceeded the required figure by 2,439 entries.

At no stage were the Invalid - 6,956 (40.47%) signatures queried. The validity of a petition must surely be questioned if there are an unusually high proportion of spoilt/invalid signatures. I would suggest that 40% is unusually high. Intentionally submitting false signatures, if this were the case, is a method of election fraud.

The request to supply documents relating to this petition: between officers, councillors or other council officials, and to or from officers, councillors or other council officials and members of the public or representatives of another body or company, was refused.

The full file of correspondence can be found here

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